Monday, January 14, 2013

Jon Finch R.I.P.

British actor Jon Finch has passed away.  He will always be remembered here at VC particularly for his great performances in Hammer's THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, Hitchcock's FRENZY and Polanski's MACBETH among his other fine work. 

Read his obituary here:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Coming Soon: More classic Chan on blu-ray!

 Pretty lame cover art but whatever...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Shaw Bros. Blu-rays from Hong Kong!

Here's a link to pre-order.  No specs as of yet so we don't know if they will be region locked.  I'm hoping these show up in local Chinatown shops at reasonable prices!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's coming to blu-ray! Read all about it!


D: Fernando Di Leo.  A sheer adrenalin rush of a movie where all the characters are bad but surprisingly convey subtle shades of evil so that you find yourself rooting for at least one of them.  That one is Mario Adorf as Luca Canali,  a big, mop-headed, greasy pimp bastard who is set up as the fall guy for an Italian/NY syndicate drug deal dispute.  The double threat hit team of Henry Silva (MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) and Woody Strode (MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE) arrive from the states and get a sleazy tour of the underworld from red-headed mob liaison Luciana Paluzzi (THUNDERBALL, THE GREEN SLIME).  Meanwhile, a confused Luca must dodge a flurry of bullets from both mob factions and deal with his loud-mouthed mistress/hooker, played mostly naked by Femi Benussi (HATCHET FOR A HONEYMOON), and his estranged wife, Sylvia Koscina (HERCULES, LISA & THE DEVIL) and sickly little daughter.  Unfortunately, Luca’s world crumbles, most tragically when his wife and daughter are brutally slaughtered.  Even a cute junkyard kitten doesn't survive a few scant minutes after befriending Luca!

The standout action sequence is unquestionably the extended foot and car chase between Adorf and his family’s jump-suited assassin.  Adorf seems to be doing most of his own stunts and we really feel his pain and exertion!  The finale in the junkyard is pretty memorable and it's not much of a spoiler to say that just about everybody bites it.    The suitably cool but often times cringe-worthy score is by Armando Travajoli.  For die-hard Euro-cine-slime fans there is  lots of blood, bare  bottoms, breasts and way-out  multi-colored mod fashions and wigs!  Francesca Romana Coluzzi (RED SONJA) pops up in a bizarre cameo  as a tall, blue haired night club freak.  Her part was quickly written as an afterthought (as explained by Di Leo in the extras).  Extras include a detailed making of featurette. Di Leo excelled in the crime genre but is probably mostly known stateside for his ultra-sleazy giallo, SLAUGHTER HOTEL starring Klaus Kinski.

The blu-ray quality is sharp and colorful for a very gritty, grainy, hand-held shot, cheap-ass thriller.  Viewed as part of the excellent Raro Video Di Leo box set.

The VHS appeared in the U.S.  as MANHUNT on the Media label. 


D: Ronald Neame.  A compelling thriller based on a bizarre true story about an elaborate WWII British military plan known as Operation Mincemeat  that involved a cadaver with a fake I.D. deployed to divert the Nazis in Sicily.  This is a fascinating  step-by-step procedural about how the corpse was selected, preserved, dressed, planted with fake documents and transported to deceive the nazis and save thousands of lives.  Clifton Webb (LAURA, TITANIC) plays Lt. Commander Montagu,( the real life participant and author of the book) aided by Robert Flemyn (THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, KAFKA),  playing the fellow officer who concocts the plot.

Gloria Graham (THE BIG HEAT, IN A LONELY PLACE) plays a lovesick girl who’s lover leaves for battle and doesn’t return.  At first, her part seems inconsequential but she gets inadvertently involved in the plot through her officer roommate Pam (Josephine Griffin) and has a great nerve-wracking scene where her overly talkative character is drunk and precariously holds the fate of the covert operation in her hands.  The film’s somewhat abrupt ending is fictionalized and reportedly displeased the real author.

Stephen Boyd (BEN HUR, HANNIE CAULDER) is excellent as the Nazi spy who arrives in London to investigate the dead man’s identity to ascertain whether the documents are legit.

The film also features a stellar supporting cast of great British character actors including  Andre Morrell (HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, SHE), Geoffrey Keene (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), Robert Brown (ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), Cyril Cusack (THE ITALIAN CONNECTION, FAHRENHEIT 451) and Miles Malleson (THEIF OF BAGDAD, HORROR OF DRACULA).  Prime Minister Churchill who gives final approval to the controversial plan is only heard off screen and was supposedly voiced by an uncredited Peter Sellers!

These types of true-life British counter intelligence plots involved such real life characters as Dennis Wheatley, Ian Fleming and even Aleister Crowley, according to recent unclassified evidence.  From the veteran cinematographer turned director of  THE HORSE’S MOUTH (1958) and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972).  Neame passed away in 2010.  Slightly grainy color scope image with crisp mono and stereo audio on DVD from MGM/20th Century Fox.


D: William James Guercio.  After recently receiving the limited edition soundtrack CD, I went back to this film, one of my favorite unsung 70’s indie road films.  The film has a desolate western noir vibe portraying an America lost in moral disarray, sort of an anti-Easy Rider where the hippie and cop cultures are not painted in broad strokes.

Robert Blake (OUR GANG, IN COLD BLOOD, TV's BARETTA) is moody and captivating as John Wintegreen, an ex-Viet Nam vet turned desert motorcycle cop who tries to rise above the corrupt system when he comes upon the scene of an apparent suicide.   He soon has reason to believe the suicide is not what it appears to be and he stands alone and faces a series of physical and spiritual obstacles to prove it.   To seek justice, Blake's Wintergreen faces a series of tough individual moral choices while juggling murder suspects, a missing stash of five-thousand dollars, shooting his partner in self-defense and trying to make personal restitution for the harassment of some hippies!  The murder subplot gradually becomes the motor that  revs and sparks the characters to reveal their true selves.  There’s also a love triangle involving Jeanine Riley (TV’s PETTICOAT JUNCTION, HEE HAW) as a slutty barkeeper that puts even more strain on Wintergreen’s antagonist relationship with the emotionally volatile investigating detective (Mitchell Ryan).  You'll be unprepared for the powerful sucker punch of an ending (well, I guess now you will be).

All the performances are pitch perfect with Elisha Cook Jr (THE MALTESE FALCON, BLACULA) and Royal Dano having especially intense scenes.  Music producer Guercio features Chicago band member friends such Peter Cetera and Terry Kath in key cameo roles.  Guercio's music score boasts a dynamic, memorable mix of orchestral, pop, country, jazz-rock, doo wop and gospel as performed by many artists including key members of Chicago and studio vets like guitarist Larry Carlton.  This film was supposedly instrumental to his getting the BARETTA TV series.  Nick Nolte appears fleetingly as an extra in the tense hippie commune stand-off.

The incredible scope cinematography is by Conrad Hall who shoots the cramped interiors very low key and back lit while the exteriors of Monument Valley are shot super bright in wide John Ford-style vistas, visually representing the two sides of the American psyche.  Some of the action sequence angles and editing foreshadow George Miller’s ROAD WARRIOR.  ELECTRA GLIDE is Guercio's sole writer/producer/director credit.  His main career is in music and he has numerous credits as a producer most notably of Chicago.

There is an excellent, concise video introduction by the director (who also provides the audio commentary) where he explains how the film was initially attacked at Cannes as fascist.  The DVD is currently out of print and available on blu-ray in Australia.  The soundtrack was originally issued on vinyl LP with an elaborate gate fold sleeve that included a color booklet and two posters.  The recent CD is a limited edition pressing of 1,000 from Quartet Records of Spain.  The film and score are both worth seeking out!